WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., Jan. 7 We've all been there: sittingin the doctor's waiting room for 10 minutes, 30 minutes, even an hour or more.But when a long wait is coupled with a hurried conversation with the doctor,that's when the frustration sets in.
"When doctors keep their patients waiting and don't spend enough time withthem, the combination of factors can be toxic," says patient satisfactionexpert Steve Feldman, M.D. Dr. Feldman is the founder of DrScore.com, theonline patient satisfaction survey site, which today released its 2008 AnnualReport Card on Patient Satisfaction.
The "toxic combination" of long waits and short doctor visits results inpatient dissatisfaction ratings almost 20 times higher than the ratings ofpatients who had the best possible experience of short waits and longer visitswith their doctors, according to the 2008 Report Card.
The DrScore Report Card is based on the results of approximately 60,000patients who completed an online survey to rate their physician. Within thesurvey, patients answer questions about how long they waited for theirappointment and how much time the physician spent with them. Patients who hadshort waits (15 minutes or less) and long visits with their physician (15minutes or more) reported an average dissatisfaction rating of 0.4 on a scaleof 0 to 10. In comparison, patients who had long wait times (one hour or more)and short visits with their doctor (five minutes or less) were about 20 timesmore dissatisfied (average dissatisfaction rating of 7.8).
While we all dislike waiting, not spending enough time with our doctor isthe key ingredient in the "toxic combination." According to the DrScore ReportCard, when wait time was the same (an hour or longer) dissatisfaction ratingswere more than five times higher among patients who had short doctor visits(five minutes or less) compared with those who had long visits (15 minutes ormore).
"This year's Report Card points very clearly to the fact that patientswant to spend time with their doctors," Dr. Feldman says. "Even if a patientis unhappy with a long wait time, the doctor can dramatically improve theexperience by spending a little more time with him." According to the ReportCard, patients who reported waiting more than an hour, but also spent 15minutes or more with the doctor, saw only a slight increase in dissatisfactioncompared to patients with short waits. When patients perceive their doctorsare spending enough time in examination and consultation, they simply don'tfeel as dissatisfied.
Increasing patient satisfaction is important because it directly links toquality of care issues such as following doctors' orders and taking theprescribed medications, factors which ultimately lead to better outcomes."Research shows that patients who are happy with their physicians have betterresults," Dr. Feldman says. "If a patient doesn't feel the doctor spent enoughtime with him, cares about him or respects him, then he may not trust thedoctor's judgment or use the prescribed medications."
To provide the best care possible, physicians need patient feedback viabalanced, online patient surveys such as DrScore.com, says Dr. Feldman. "I'm ascientist type who thought great medical care was just about giving patientsthe right diagnosis and treatment," he says. "It wasn't until I startedgetting feedback from patients that I realized great medical care is aboutmore than that. I created DrScore.com as a tool for physicians, and we knowdoctors who participate are actively using this level of feedback to improvetheir quality of care."